4 Lessons Marketers Can Learn from Local TV News Reporters

This post was initially published on BostInnovation on July 28, 2011. To read the original post there, click here. Today – thanks to social media, smartphones and other new digital communications platforms and tools – what the savviest of consumers are asking of their favorite brands is almost as much as they’d expect from


The Importance of LinkedIn Recommendations

Given my outgoing personality, my obsession with the latest news and the fact that I’ve always been an early adopter of new communications tools, it’s no surprise that I’ve been enamored with social media from the get-go. I can’t tell you how excited I was to launch my own blog in early 2004, where I’ve written nearly


10 Ways to Succeed as a Copywriter, Parts 1-10

If you’ve been reading this blog for the last few months, you know I’ve been writing a series of posts on copywriting. Similar to the approach I took with my series on social media, I’ve looked at copywriting from a 30,000-foot level, focusing on the principles you need to be mindful of if you want to


10 Ways to Succeed in Social Media, Parts 1-10

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you already know about the  “10 Ways to Succeed in Social Media” series of posts I started writing on January 13 of this year and recently concluded on April 5. But what you wouldn’t know is how much I’ve been looking forward to stringing these posts together into one


The Importance of Character in Social Media

By now, most people involved in marketing, advertising and PR have put aside any skepticism they may have had about social media and are using such online communications vehicles as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to reach out to and engage with others. They’re finally realizing that – as I’ve said before here on this


Smile, You’re on Social Media

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EllenWhen Ellen DeGeneres pulled together some of Hollywood’s biggest superstars for a group shot at the Oscars this year, it may have been a moment of spontaneous fun, but the resultant tweet of this selfie will go down in social media history.

Having been retweeted over 3.4 million times at last count, this one epic tweet from @TheEllenShow easily surpassed a tweet of President Barack Obama’s as the most retweeted ever.

Statistics aside, this tweet served to underscore a point that social media practitioners like me have been preaching to businesses and brands for a long time. Lighten up.

You heard me. Take your work, not yourself, seriously. If the likes of Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt and Kevin Spacey can strike a pose for a rather silly selfie at their industry’s most prestigious awards ceremony, you can afford to let your hair down every once in a while, too.

In fact, if you really want to be a success on social media, you can’t afford not to be extemporaneous and extroverted, transparent and true to whom you are in real life, not just your corporate persona. Anything less and you’ll get lost in the clutter, overlooked and ignored for your self-promotional messages, business jargon and corporate speak.

It’s the importance of the social in social media that far too many marketers, especially those in the B2B sector, still underestimate. Like trying to force a square peg into a round hole, they’re trying to repurpose the same strategies and tactics that may be working just fine on other channels. They’re trying too hard.

Those who get social media know that it’s far easier to simply be themselves on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like. It’s far more effective, too. They know enough to be more impromptu than contrived, more conversational than scripted. They know that anything they can do to reveal their authentic selves will pay off more often than not.

That’s not to say they don’t have a solid social media plan in place, a plan steeped in the best practices and strategies associated with marketing and social commerce. Before doing anything, they do everything they can to learn the makeup of their audience, assess their competition, create new content, brainstorm ideas and identify the channels on which they’ll be promoting their products and services.

But not only does this plan include a comprehensive editorial calendar for sharing news, information and offers, it includes plenty of opportunities for real-time marketing and constituent engagement. It includes a mandate to be as candid as possible and to put a big smile on the brand.

After all, like any good sales person knows, people want to do business with someone they like and trust, someone who’s down to earth and who has a good sense of humor. Don’t be the brand who hides behind a logo and pretends to be omnipotent. Be humble, open-minded and responsive to your audience’s needs.

Jet Blue
For instance, take a look at how much fun JetBlue Airways (@JetBlue) has on Twitter. Despite being at the beck and call of a demanding public, they couldn’t be any more chipper, convivial and conversational on this channel. Cracking jokes, singing people’s praises and extending warm wishes to one and all, they’re as warm and welcoming an account as you’ll find on Twitter.

Contant Contact
Then there’s Constant Contact on Facebook. Not only do they go out of their way to provide a wealth of educational resources to their audience, they do so with pleasure. So much of what they share is informational and inspirational. So much of what they say is helpful and cheerful.

Marketing Profs
Finally, there’s Marketing Profs on Instagram, a feed that “celebrates all things marketing.” Check it out. You’ll see a nice collection of photos from their many special events, conferences and activities, including a handful of great people shots, too. And they always look like they’re having fun.

What about you? Are you having a good time on social media? Are you smiling on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like? Are you ready for your prime-time selfie?

Note: This post, “Smile, You’re on Social Media,” was originally published on ClickZ on March 25, 2014 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on April 3, 2014 here.

10 Ways Your Brand Can Stand Out on Twitter

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With over 241 million active users on Twitter, more and more brands are realizing that establishing a presence there is no longer an option. It’s a must.

The good news is that it’s relatively easy to get up and running on this social media channel. Building a substantial audience that hangs on everything you’re saying in 140 characters or less? Not so much.

Success on Twitter takes time as well as a deep knowledge of the best practices that only comes with experience through trial and error. Keeping an eye on what others are doing on the channel is an excellent way to learn the latest strategies and tactics as well.

To monitor how brands are using Twitter to capture the attention of their constituents, I’ve compiled a list of more than 500 businesses and brands on the channel, which I regularly scan for ideas and inspiration. What I’ve learned from this list and from my own work with clients is what I’d like to share with you now.

1. Newsjack What’s Hot. Taking advantage of trending news by writing about it as it is breaking can be a very effective way to inject your brand into the conversation IF it is done in a clever, timely and tasteful manner. The Grammys. The Academy Awards. The Olympics. Special events like these are ripe for the picking. For instance, during this year’s Super Bowl, many brands were playing the newsjacking game, sharing their quips in real time.
DiGiorno Pizza
Example: DiGiorno Pizza

2. Ask Questions. Any networker worth his or her salt knows the best way to win over an audience is to show an interest in what others have to say rather than to talk about yourself. Ask them anything. The more you ask them questions, the more likely they’ll be trust that you’re genuinely interested in their needs, interests and opinions. The more likely they’ll be to do business with you when the time comes.
Regus USA
Example: Regus USA

3. Engage with Other Brands. Back in the day, it would have been highly unusual – and nearly impossible – for one brand to talk to another. What would be the point? And without the Internet, there wasn’t really a good forum for such conversation, anyway. Social media changes everything. And today, now that most brands have the basics of Twitter down, they’re going where no brands have gone before, reaching out to one another for not just casual banter, but strategically timed engagement.
Hyundai USA
Example: Hyundai USA

4. Embrace Your Fans. People follow brands on Twitter for a number of reasons, one of which is for a digital autograph, a change to connect with someone or something they adore. One-on-one interaction is ideal. A retweet or a reply goes a long way with your fans. But if you’re too big or too busy to reach out to others individually, you can still at least acknowledge those who follow you in one fell swoop and thank them every once in a while.
New England Patriots
Example: New England Patriots

5. Talk about the Weather. What’s the one thing people talk about when they have nothing else to say? The weather! Everyone is interested in the forecast, the temperature and whether it’s sunny, raining or snowing outside. The weather is the lowest common denominator of conversation. It’s an opportunity for brands to talk about something that has universal appeal.
Power Bar USA
Example: PowerBar USA

6. Be Responsive. Given the fact that over 70% of users expect brands to get back to them on Twitter in under an hour (according to a Lithium Technologies report, it only makes sense that the quicker you respond to those who tag you, the better. Monitor the channel for mentions and questions. Unless they’re trolls, spammers or ridiculously rude people, everyone deserves a timely response.
Example: Target

7. Have a Sense of Humor. Far too many brands take themselves too seriously on Twitter. For them, every single tweet is watered down, devoid of any personality whatsoever, never mind a sense of humor. Yet one of the best ways to stand out on this channel is to lighten up every once in a while. Laugh at yourself. Poke fun at others – in a harmless, good-natured way. Don’t hesitate to put a smile on the face of your brand.
Taco Bell
Example: Taco Bell

8. Give something away. Perhaps the easiest way to stand among the competition for attention on Twitter is to host a contest or sweepstakes. You don’t have to feature a big prize, either. Anything you have to offer is sure to draw interest. Make sure you abide by Twitter’s guidelines, though. There are probably more details involved than you realize. But if you play by the rules and your prize is desirable, you’ll likely be deluged with replies and entries.
AMC Theatres
Example: AMC Theatres

9. Be inspirational. Whether you’re marketing to businesses or consumers, don’t forget that you’re talking to other humans on Twitter. Sure, your ultimate objective may be to increase lead and sales, but that doesn’t happen overnight on Twitter. It happens over time. Start by helping your followers achieve both their personal and professional dreams. A little emotion goes a long way toward moving people to action and helping them separate the good tweets from those not worth their time.
Example: Nike

10. Share your knowledge. Speaking of being helpful, some of the most popular accounts on Twitter are those that provide insight and information to their followers. Like the most successful thought leaders, they share tips, tricks, facts and figures about the space in which their brands and followers live, work and play.
Example: Moz

Note: This post, “10 Ways Your Brand Can Stand Out on Twitter,” was originally published on ClickZ on February 25, 2014 here.

Twitter Guide to Newspapers, Magazines, TV and Radio Stations in the Boston Area

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Twitter Guide to Newspapers, Magazines, TV and Radio Stations in the Boston Area
Okay, native Bostonians — and those of you, like me, who are truly, madly, deeply in love with this wicked cool city — step right up. This guide’s for you.

Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that there are countless ways to stay enlightened, educated and entertained via traditional media around this town. You know the drill. You know which newspapers and magazines to read. You know which TV and radio stations to tune into when you want to catch up or chill out.

But do you know where those very same publishers and disseminators of content live on Twitter? Do you know their handles? Do you know what they’re saying and sharing in 140 characters or less?

That’s why I put together this guide. It’s designed to help you find, follow and engage with some of the most popular Boston-area media outlets on Twitter.

You can follow any of the individual accounts below. Just click the buttons. You can read their latest tweets in the embedded stream beneath the buttons. Or you can subscribe to the entire list — yes, the whole kit and caboodle in one fell swoop — on Twitter here.





TV Stations


Radio Stations


Note: This post, “Twitter Guide to Newspapers, Magazines, TV and Radio Stations in the Boston Area,” was originally published on the Overdrive Interactive blog on May 30, 2014. To read the post there, click here.

The Buzz on Twitter about the 2014 Boston Marathon

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20140412_163310-680x240It’s not only the oldest annual marathon in the world, held on the third Monday of April, it’s one of the most popular road races of any distance among runners and spectators alike. It’s the legendary Boston Marathon, a 26.2-mile trek from Hopkinton to Boston that began in 1897.

This year, of course, there is likely more attention being given to the Boston Marathon than any other year in its storied history. Understandably so. The 2013 Boston Marathon was tragically marred by two bomb explosions near the finish line that killed three spectators and injured over 200 others. This year, there will be 36,000 official entrants in the marathon and more emotions wrapped up in the event than ever.

What’s being said about the 2014 Boston Marathon on Twitter? Plenty. From the sponsors to the media, the runners to the fans, it seems everyone is weighing in on the marathon this year and counting down the days until April 21.

Here (below) are just some of the tweets I have seen about the event recently…

P.S. By the way, I’ll be updating this custom timeline frequently between now and sometime after the completion of the marathon, so don’t hesitate to check back often for the latest buzz.

Note: This post, “The Buzz on Twitter about the 2014 Boston Marathon,” was originally published on the Overdrive Interactive blog on April 13, 2014. To read the post there, click here.

Three Good Reasons to Tag Others in Tweets

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Years ago, before I was to deliver a farewell address at my last meeting as president of an industry trade group, a friend gave me some advice I remember to this day.

Mention lots of people in your speech, he told me. Name names. The more people, the better.

I couldn’t have agreed more. I took his advice to heart and rattled off as many names as possible. I thanked people for their help. I acknowledged them for their contributions. It felt good to be singing their praises.

20130404_132843Dale Carnegie certainly would have approved. After all, one of his “Six Ways to Make People Like You” in his classic book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” is to “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

I think of my friend’s advice – and Dale Carnegie’s book – when I write tweets, too. People like to both hear and see their names. In person. In print. And on Twitter.

Here are three good reasons to tag others – that is, to include their Twitter handles – in your own tweets.

1. It’s good form. You don’t want to talk too much about yourself on Twitter. You want to be a good conversationalist and pay attention to others. Ask people about their backgrounds and interests. Praise them for their accomplishments. Thank them for their feedback. Share third-party content more than your own, giving credit where credit’s due by tagging the author and source whenever possible.

2. It’s more credible. Some people are hesitant to click on a link if they don’t know its origin. Adding “via,” “from,” or “by” and a Twitter handle when you’re promoting other people’s content builds both trust and respect among your followers as well as those whom you tag.

3. It’s often reciprocated. One good deed leads to another. It’s the golden rule. Mention someone’s name on Twitter and chances are you’ll receive a reply. Tagging others in your tweets is not only the right thing to do, it’s a smart thing to do. It leads to more engagement, more followers and more influence over time.

Note: This post, “Three Good Reasons to Tag Others on Twitter,” was originally published on the Overdrive Interactive blog on February 11, 2014. To read the post there, click here.

I’m Proud to Be Running the Boston Marathon for Christopher’s Haven

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The 2014 Boston Marathon will be extra special for me. The victims of last year’s bombings will be on my mind every step of the way, but so will the kids who stay at Christopher’s Haven, “a home for kids when cancer hits home.”

To support my participation in the Boston Marathon this year and give to Christopher’s Haven, please visit my fundraising page here, where you can make a secure online donation. Or you can donate by check — just make it payable to Christopher’s Haven and mail it to me at 33 Oakwood Avenue, Sudbury, MA 01776. Thank you for your kindness, generosity and support.

How Over 100 Boston-Area Restaurants Use Twitter

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Cheeseburger-and-FriesYou’ve probably heard of them. You may even have been to them. But do you follow them on Twitter?

They are the over 100 different restaurants in the Boston area that you will find tweeting about eating that are included in a list I created recently on Twitter.

Union Oyster HouseFrom a great gastropub like Deep Ellum to a classic steakhouse like Abe & Louie’s, a legendary sports bar like the Cask ‘n Flagon to a highly acclaimed Italian bistro like Figs, they’re some of the most popular restaurants around, places you can count on for good food and good times.

In this Twitter list, you can read what these restaurants are up to in 140 characters or less. You can learn more about their menus, their specials, their personalities and their histories. You can see some ridiculously amazing food and drink pictures, too.

Kudos to all these dining establishments for putting themselves out there on Twitter. Surely they’re benefitting by being more accessible, communicative, timely and relevant…by being just plain more social. Check them out in the embedded timeline below. Click on their Twitter handles and follow those you like best. Reading their tweets will tell you a lot about their eats.

Note: This post, “How Over 100 Boston-Area Restaurants Use Twitter,” was originally published on the Overdrive Interactive blog on January 27, 2014. To read the post there, click here.

I’m Running the 2014 Boston Marathon for Christopher’s Haven

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Boston Strong

For me, the day started out like any other Patriots’ Day on which I’ve run the Boston Marathon, but it ended not with the anticipated feelings of joy and accomplishment. Instead, I went to sleep that night restless, worried and overwhelmed by a sense of sadness and shock over the two devastating bombs that had exploded near the finish line on Boylston Street.

That’s how a blog post of mine began on April 21 of last year, just six days after the 2013 Boston Marathon, an otherwise glorious event that was tragically marred by two destructive explosions along Boylston Street.

I wanted to put down in words while it was still fresh in my mind everything I felt about my experience that day.

2013 Boston Marathon The disappointment I felt in having my journey interrupted less than a mile away from the finish line didn’t matter. The thought of all the innocent victims of that senseless demonstration of violence and how their lives had been not just interrupted, but changed forever in such an awful way, was overwhelming.

Indeed, my excitement and enthusiasm over running the marathon was turned into sorrow and sadness for those who were in harm’s way and for a world in which terrorism is for some crazy reason so commonplace.

This year will be another story. This year, I plan to finish what I started that infamous day and go the entire 26.2 miles.

That’s right, on April 21, 2014, I’ll once again be joining thousands of other determined runners for that heralded, historic trek from Hopkinton to Boston.

It’ll be the 12th time I’ve run the Boston Marathon, my 15th marathon overall. And because I’ve been there done that so many times before, I know I’ll be tired and sore most of the way. But any aches and pain I have to endure that day will be nothing, of course, compared to what the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings experienced last year…or the hurt and heartache that kids with cancer – and their families – have to withstand.

Boston Marathon CollageYes, I’ll be running the Boston Marathon this year with the bombing victims on my mind, and for the kids who stay at Christopher’s Haven with their families while they are being treated for cancer at a hospital in Boston.

Christopher’s Haven is a ridiculously cool nonprofit organization that was founded in 2001 by a ridiculously cool guy, Dan Olsen, who is a three-time cancer survivor himself. While receiving treatments at Massachusetts General Hospital, Dan met families struggling to care for a child battling cancer while also facing the staggering costs of extended stays near the hospital. After surviving his third bout with the disease, Dan wanted to do something to help families like those he’d met. His dream was to create a haven for young cancer patients and their families, a place that would free them from any concerns about lodging, making it possible for them to focus on their children’s treatment and recovery. In Christopher’s Haven, Dan’s dream came true.

So this year’s Boston Marathon will be extra special for me. The victims of last year’s bombings will be on my mind every step of the way, but so will the kids who stay at Christopher’s Haven. To give to this nonprofit organization, please visit my fundraising page here, where you can make a secure online donation. Or you can donate by check — just make it payable to Christopher’s Haven and mail it to me at 33 Oakwood Avenue, Sudbury, MA 01776.

Your donation will mean a lot to me, but it will mean much, much more to the boys and girls who have to undergo cancer treatment in Boston and their families who stay with them at Christopher’s Haven. Thank you for kindness, generosity and support.
Thank You
To learn more about Christopher’s Haven, click here.

Here’s what I’ve written about running the Boston Marathon for charity in the past…

Running the Boston Marathon for Charity: A Personal Fundraising Initiative (Part One)
January 18, 2005
Running the Boston Marathon for Charity: A Personal Fundraising Initiative (Part Two)
January 24, 2005
Running the Boston Marathon for Charity: A Personal Fundraising Initiative (Part Three)
January 31, 2005
Running the Boston Marathon for Charity: A Personal Fundraising Initiative (Part Four)
February 7, 2005
Running the Boston Marathon for Charity: A Personal Fundraising Initiative (Update)
April 12, 2005
Running the Boston Marathon for Children’s Hospital Boston — and Hailey
October 31, 2005
Running the Boston Marathon for Children’s Hospital Boston — Update
January 30, 2006
Please Sponsor Bob’s Boston Marathon Run for Children’s Hospital Boston
April 6, 2006
A Memorable Boston Marathon for More Reasons Than One
April 19, 2006
Running the Boston Marathon for Charity (Yes, Again)
January 2, 2009
I’m Running the Boston Marathon for Christopher’s Haven
January 25, 2010
I’m Running the 2013 Boston Marathon for Christopher’s Haven
January 12, 2013